The new statin guidelines announced this week would have doctors prescribe risky drugs to millions more people.

From The New York Times: (emphases added)

Don’t Give More Patients Statins
By John D. Abramson and Rita F. Redberg
Published: November 13, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/14/opinion/dont-give-more-patients-s...

On Tuesday, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology ... essentially declared ... that millions of healthy Americans should immediately start taking pills — namely statins — for undefined health “benefits.” This announcement ... will benefit the pharmaceutical industry more than anyone else.

The new guidelines ... eliminate the earlier criteria that a patient’s “bad cholesterol,” or LDL, be at or above a certain level.... According to our calculations, it will increase the number of healthy people for whom statins are recommended by nearly 70 percent.

This may sound like good news for patients, and it would be — if statins actually offered meaningful protection from our No. 1 killer, heart disease; if they helped people live longer or better; and if they had minimal adverse side effects. However, none of these are the case.

Statins are effective for people with known heart disease. But for people who have less than a 20 percent risk of getting heart disease in the next 10 years, statins not only fail to reduce the risk of death, but also fail even to reduce the risk of serious illness.... At the same time, 18 percent or more of this group would experience side effects, including muscle pain or weakness, decreased cognitive function, increased risk of diabetes (especially for women), cataracts or sexual dysfunction.

Perhaps more dangerous, statins provide false reassurances.... Statins give the illusion of protection to many people, who would be much better served, for example, by simply walking an extra 10 minutes per day.

... The group that wrote the recommendations was not sufficiently free of conflicts of interest; several of the experts on the panel have recent or current financial ties to drug makers. In addition, both the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology ... are heavily supported by drug companies.

The American people deserve to have important medical guidelines developed by doctors and scientists on whom they can confidently rely to make judgments free from influence, conscious or unconscious, by the industries that stand to gain or lose.

We believe that the new guidelines are not adequately supported by objective data, and that statins should not be recommended for this vastly expanded class of healthy Americans. Instead of converting millions of people into statin customers, we should be focusing on the real factors that undeniably reduce the risk of heart disease: healthy diets, exercise and avoiding smoking. Patients should be skeptical about the guidelines, and have a meaningful dialogue with their doctors about statins, including what the evidence does and does not show, before deciding what is best for them.

(The entire article is worth reading.)

As a commenter noted, "it does seem that the Holy Grail of the business is finding some medication that everyone over 50 should take for life."

Tags: cholesterol, conflict, drugs, guidelines, industry, interest, of, pharmaceutical, risks, statins

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